Teen Driver Safety Week is October 21-27, 2018
This week is a great opportunity for parents to start – and hopefully, continue – having conversations with their teens about the importance of driving safely. No matter what we’re driving the rules stay the same, and no one should have the keys if they don’t know them. The greatest dangers for teen drivers are alcohol consumption, improper seat belt use, distracted or drowsy driving, speeding, and driving with passengers in the vehicle. Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death for teens 15-to-18 years old in the U.S. and in Texas.
Parents can be the biggest influencers on teens’ choices behind the wheel if they take the time to talk with their teens about some of the biggest driving risks, including:
- Alcohol and Drugs: All teens are too young to legally buy, possess, or consume alcohol. However, nationally, in 2016, nearly one out of five teen drivers of passenger vehicles involved in a fatal crash had been drinking. But alcohol isn’t the only substance that can keep your teen from driving safely: In 2016, 6.5 percent of adolescents ages 12 to 17 were current users of marijuana. Like many other drugs, marijuana affects a driver’s ability to react to their surroundings. Driving is a complex task, and marijuana slows reaction times, affecting the driver’s ability to drive safely. Remind your teen that driving under the influence of any impairing substance – including illicit, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter medication – could have deadly consequences.
- Seat Belts: Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways for teens to stay safe in a vehicle. Yet too many teens aren’t buckling up. In fact, there were 569 passengers killed in passenger vehicles driven by teen drivers, and more than half (54%) of those passengers who died were NOT buckled up at the time of the fatal crash.
- Distracted Driving: In 2016, among teen drivers involved in fatal crashes, 10 percent were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group also has the largest percentage of drivers who were distracted at the time of a crash. The biggest distraction for teens is other teens in the vehicle.
- Speeding: In 2016, almost one-third (31%) of all teen drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash.
- Passengers: Teen drivers transporting passengers can lead to disastrous consequences. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when traveling with multiple passengers.
- Drowsy Driving: Teens are busier than ever, and with increased activity, teens tend to compromise something very important — sleep. This is a dangerous habit that can lead to drowsy driving. Even after 7-8 hours of quality sleep, people are most likely to feel drowsy between the hours of 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., which is generally when teens are driving home.
What’s the solution? Talk regularly to your teen about the dangers of driving and set the tone. Self-reported surveys show that teens with parents who set and enforce firm rules for driving typically engage in less risky driving behaviors and are involved in fewer crashes.
Parents should start the conversation with their teen about safe driving habits during National Teen Driver Safety Week, but continue the conversation every day throughout the year. It is never the wrong time to talk about safety.
For more information about National Teen Driver Safety Week and to learn more safe driving tips for your teens, please visit www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/teen-driving .